Pop Bop's Reviews > Countryside: The Book of the Wise

Countryside by J.T. Cope IV
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Mar 22, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed

A Really Real Magical Reality, Really.

It seems to me that there are lots of very good middle grade fantasy adventure books that have clever plots, interesting characters, and fanciful alternate worlds. In that we are fortunate. There are very few books, though, that are truly effective in describing and bringing to life the depth of such worlds, or the romance and excitement and shear otherness of such worlds. J.T. Cope's singular achievement in this book is to make us feel, in a very practical and tangible way, what it would be like to be drawn from one's "normal" life into a fantastical adventure in a world like but different from our own.

In this case Luke and his Mom and siblings must flee their normal life to seek asylum of a sort in Countryside, which is described as a "holding", a magical place set aside for the safety of those, (human or otherwise), who are fortunate enough to be able to sense and see the magical beings and forces that surround us in normal life. There are undisclosed threats to Luke and to everyone in Countryside and Luke, whose grandparents have always lived in Countryside, clearly has some larger role to play in confronting those dangers. From there the plot moves in slowly widening circles, and more characters are introduced and more layers of menace are encountered as the book progresses.

But underlying all of that plotting is a complete commitment by the author to creating a world and characters who are worthy of all that effort and action. There is great attention to detail. And I don't mean the kind of tedious detail that involves describing every piece of furniture in a room, or every item of clothing being worn by some minor character. I mean attention to detail in using little bits of information and simple items of interest and passing observations and conversations to build up, layer by layer, a place that feels convincing, that has atmosphere, that has real presence.

One other aspect of the book that struck me favorably is its slightly old fashioned feel. Luke, who is twelve, is a typical twelve year old, but he is well spoken and respectful when dealing with adults. He watches out for his siblings and is affectionate toward and protective of his Mom. There is no heavy-handed moralizing or instruction or anything like that, but just a general feeling reminiscent of the old "Boys Own" adventures that emphasized honor, and duty, and resourcefulness, and similar virtues. All of the characters have style and class and weight, and that is no small feat to pull off in a middle grade fantasy book.

So, a very nice choice with many appealing aspects. The worst I can say is that the book has a bit too much of that "I'd tell you more, but I don't have time right now" padding, but since I wasn't in a big hurry to race through this particular book anyway I was willing to not be impatient about that.

Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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